The end of the weekend mail
Strong finish again, folks.
Sorry I’m a bit late, I blame Jose Valverde for being a bit sluggish and tardy today.
Enjoy your day. And this.
Q: Hey Doug: In your IGBT, someone asked about Kleiza playing the four. You replied that "It's a once-in-a-while matchup..."
Could you give an example of when that would be? Does it depend who the other team has on the floor? Which other Raps are on the floor?
As usual, thanks for taking the time to keep us informed!
Tim H, Windsor
A: It would depend more on who’s on the other floor than who is playing for the Raptors, I’m told. You wouldn’t want Kleiza guarding a 6-11 power forward who likes to play in the post; you’d rather have him facing some “stretch four” like, for instance, a Ryan Anderson or, as he did the other night against Detroit, Austin Daye.
As I said, it’s certainly not something you’ll see regularly but it’s something Dwane has in his back pocket.
Q: Another for the mailbag. What stories about other teams/players/etc., are you looking forward to writing this season? Something like Nash taking his talents to Hollywood seems obvious, but what about smaller things like ex-Raptor P.J. Tucker making his way back to the league after bouncing around places like Israel, Puerto Rico and the Ukraine for 5 years? Any interesting angles you hope to cover (that is, unless other writers see them here and pinch them)? Cheers.
Jonathan M, Toronto
A: Sure, Nash and the Lakers are a great story, hope I get to do it sooner rather than later.
Otherwise? To tell you the truth, I kind of wait and see what develops. But right now I’m quite intrigued by the Knicks because I can see them either having an okay season or going right in the toilet. I know they have lots of talent but – and I’ll get into this more as the preview stuff gets done – there’s little evidence that Chandler, Stoudemire and Anthony can succeed together (they were best when one was out last season) and a team that, really, barely crept into the playoffs added a so-so point guard and a bunch of old guys.
Other than that? San Antonio taking one last shot (I know, we say that every year) should be intriguing, as will Oklahoma City when they do whatever they do with Harden before Halloween.
Q: Do any of the players ever look like they are having fun? Any smiles or all serious. Can you come up with a nickname for one of the Raps right now?
Lefty F, Cape Breton
A: Sure, they’re all having fun but they are also concentrating and have a level of intensity that doesn’t allow them to smile an awful lot on the court. Magic Johnson, of course, was the exception.
And we’ve got two nicknames we’re making stick.
Ed Davis, thanks to himself as told to E. Koreen, shall hitherto be known as Boss (not The Boss, just Boss).
And for Bargnani and Valanciunas, I’m dubbing them The Ivory Towers.
More to come, I hope, but I will avoid The Big Anything because it’s cliché and everyone does it.
Q: Your editors have special talents and now a hockey piece by DS! Impressive young man. Nice job.
I like Terrance Ross. I think he could be a real sleeper pick. I know, we'll see in 2 yrs.
This is a key year for the management team and a good opportunity to strengthen and grow their customer base with the hockey hiatus.
I recognize that everybody wants to roll right out of the gate, is there a sense of urgency to get off to a good start by the hierarchy?
John C, Mississauga
A: There is, but it’s not just because there are marketing and ticket sales possibilities – although that does play into it.
(As an aside, my biggest concern is that all of a sudden Pucks-Minded Tall Foreheads will say: “Hey, we have a basketball team? We should cover it more”)
I think the reason they need to get off to a good start is to prove to the players that what the coach is preaching will work; they can ill afford to have doubt creep into their minds, or be worried that what the bosses want won’t work.
It’s going to be tough, though. I think 15 of the first 22 or something like that are on the road and that’s a bear of a schedule.
Yeah, me and Junior Pucks. Who’d a’thunk it!
Q: Hello Doug. Long time reader, 1st time writer (that's been posted anyway, lol).
I'd like to begin with your thoughts on any contrasts you observed in the Raptors approach between the 2 Piston's match-ups. Do you feel adjustments were made with the opponent in mind, or were changes just the result of dividing minutes and exploring on-court combinations? I ask because Detroit is on the short-list of teams we will be competing with directly for the last playoff spots.
Also, I have been scratching my head trying to unravel the acronym "HOTH". Hoops on the hill?? What's the origin there? HELP!!
Thanks a million Doug! I've kept an eye on your blog through the baseball season, but seriously, nice to have you back on hoops; basketball is just plain better.
Matthew T, Toronto
A: At this time of the pre-season, there are no adjustments made with opponents in mind, it’s all about working on your own stuff, as Dwane told us all week. Sure, they had a cursory scouting report on the Pistons but what they did in Friday’s game was pretty much exactly what they did in Wednesday’s game; try to execute their own plays and defensive assignments.
And it’s Heroes Of The Hardcourt.
Q: Hi Doug: Great to have hoops starting up again. In your expert Doug Smith opinion, what team will surprise and what team will disappoint in the east; same for the west and what Raptor, if any, do you think may have a "break out" season?
If you pay by the question, that's actually 3 of them. The payment schedule remains unchanged from last season, right?
Richard B, St. Williams
A: Total guesswork, I hope you appreciate, but I honestly think the locals here might be a surprise to the rest of the conference that’s basically ignored them for years. A disappointment? Another tough one but I’m not entirely sold on Philly and as I mentioned somewhere else in here, I’m interested to see how the Knicks do.
Individual Raptors? I keep hearing, and seeing, that Boss Davis is maybe the best guy in camp, we’ll see if that stays true when games start for real.
Q: Hi Doug. I read your article today (before the game was actually played) about the Raptors playing Real Madrid.
There was a quote from Jose Calderon saying that to really compare these two teams, they should play in April, and not now.
That got me thinking, wouldn't it be cool if the top 6 or 8 teams that didn't make the playoffs entered into a tournament with the European teams, and maybe tie a higher draft pick to the winning team if that team is an NBA team?
An extra couple of home games would be great for ownership, it would give the players a chance to experience a playoff like atmosphere, and it might encourage tanking teams to try to make the tournament, as opposed to losing out the final games of the season.
I don't have a perfect idea of how it could work, but perhaps giving the winning team of that tournament a higher percentage to land the 1 or 2 draft spot. The likelihood of winning the draft with the highest percentage is still quite low, but it would force the worst teams to do everything in their power to improve, as it could give them greater revenue in a few extra games, as well as the best shot to land the 1st or 2nd draft pick.
Could this work? Would you be in favour of a similar model? Is this the type of thing that could never happen? I'm curious to know your thoughts.
Peter L, Georgetown
A: Sounds like fun and sure would give people in cities like Toronto something to look forward to but can’t see how it’s workable. All the ancillary stuff – TV contracts, sponsorships – are tied up in either playoffs here or EuroLeague or EuroCup stuff over there and I’m not sure it “sells” as a consolation playoff bracket. But if they want to do it, I’m more than willing to cover games in London, Madrid and Rome in May.
Q: I actually enjoyed listening to the Detroit tv announcers the other night. I was surprised by how much they knew about the Rap's players. Were they the regular guys or just pre-season announcers? Also, not that you get to watch a lot of games on TV, but who would be your top five basketball commentators.
Jeff M, Saint John
A: On Wednesday it was the regular play-by-play guy, George Blaha, who has been around forever, but not sure who the analyst was. I know Greg Kelser, the usual one, was here Friday, but he wasn’t around Wednesday.
You’re right, I don’t get to see nearly enough local TV so I’m more in tune with the national guys. I think Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy are head and shoulders the best two on TV; I like Kevin Calabro whenever I can hear him and the rest would likely be tied for third.
Q: Hi Doug. Regarding the Lowry backdoor, always interesting as part of a reporters blog to find out how you really feel, and the politics if you will of sport and its promotion. My immediate reaction however is, who cares, and more importantly as a fan, my second reaction is, I hope this doesn't affect the coverage of the player and somehow turn part of his daily routine into something negative. You must have seen this type of scenario play out many times, with HWSNBN for example, just wondering, is this how it starts, could this be how a player becomes unpopular with media, and it descends into a spiral that effects a players day to day?
Going a different route on this topic, is there not room in sports promotion for different personalities, i.e. Royce White, or allowance for human mood to allow a guy to not want to talk to the media, as a "surly" guy, maybe it really isn't in his best interests as a player to Crash Davis his way through an interview. It may be a big part of the business, but has nothing to do with winning, obviously, which is the best promotion of all.
I guess, at the end of the day, I wonder why you felt the need to mention this, is it the inside the reporter beat angle, or do you portend bad attitudes in general from the new general?
James K, Hamilton
A: Hang on one sec:
Vince, for all his faults, talked to us every day we needed him to. That’s after practices, after shootarounds, before games, after games. He might not have said an awful lot but he stood there and answered more inane questions than I could possibly imagine. He had faults, that wasn’t one of them.
Now, I’d hope you’d know by now that I am professional enough, as are my brethren and sisteren, to not let one tiny, minor incident mean anything. And, frankly, the only reason I brought it up as that some people here do like some kind of insight into the work process and how we go about doing our business.
Q: Hi Doug. Sorry if this has been asked before, but I'm curious if JV has been asked about his lack of playing time at the Olympics. If so, what was his explanation?
Michael K, Toronto
A: I asked him in London and he – rightfully so – suggested he just didn’t play well. But, and this I know to be true from a handful of people I talked to, the coach was reticent to give any young players any substantial time. He stuck with the vets he knew so he could take one last shot at Olympic glory. Didn’t work out too well.
Q: Hello Doug. Where can we see "The Other Dream Team"? Do you have any information on when DVD will be released?
A: I don’t know when, or if, it will go into general release in theatres here, I know there are people trying to make it happen, we’ll keep you informed as best we can.
DVD? I couldn’t say.
Q: Was the move to become a more up tempo team more a result of last years offensive woes or the change in personnel? It seems like we might have more people who can start the break themselves this year ( a la James Johnsons...)
Jeff M, Saint John
A: A direct result of last year’s offensive struggles, they want to try and get some easy baskets but it cannot come at the expense of transition defence or they’ll be no further ahead.
And I’m not sure they have many more wings who can get a rebound and go; trade Fields for Johnson and Lowry for Bayless and that’s about it. Different, maybe, but not more or necessarily better.
Q: Greetings, got to thinking about this the other night while considering the deserted stands at the Piston's pre-season tilt. Obviously all the teams play in the same league, work within the same CBA and at least are exposed to whatever directives eminate from the league offices, but beyond that, do you find that some/most/all of the teams think of themselves as an island in the stream? Meaning that they have their own interpretations of what their business requires of them.
You have discussed the differing fan experiences between venues, certainly there appears to be "culture" differences between the teams (admittedly market size plays a role here) but I am left wondering if the sometimes apparent inconsistencies may trace back to the teams ownership offices? Thanks for what you do,
Doug T, Branford
A: Sure, that’s what it gets to. What works in one city won’t work in another and it’s how ownership – or upper management at least – decides to present games that makes for the experience. Some of it willingness to spend on such things as in-game entertainment and pyrotechnics a and lot; some of it just knowing, or thinking you know, what your audience wants.
But I will tell you this: All the “shtick” like timeout contests, music selections, choice of halftime acts, all and sundry “entertainment experience” things go to the league and are available for all other 29 teams to look at.
Q: I'm just wondering when you do have a complaint against a player skipping obligatory media sessions (i.e Lowery), do you have anyone you can report to/complain to? The Raps media guy? Or is it more of a "just mention it in your blog and if some Raptor's brass takes notices and maybe they will speak to him" sort of thing?
Jeff M, Saint John
A: Oh, no. If we have a serious issue that goes on for a while, we’d of course express our concerns to the team’s media relations staff. We did in a very minor way the day we were back-doored, for instance, but it’s not all that big a deal. If a pattern develops, we’ll be more forceful in our discussions.
Hey Doug. A non-basketball question. I was one of folks suggesting the Henry House and I am hoping you can return the favour. I am off to New Orleans in early November and I am wondering if you have any can't miss dining suggestions. Thanks.
Mike C, Regina
A: Outstanding call on the Henry House.
New Orleans: Commander’s Palace is a favourite and you have to go to Café du Monde for beignets and coffee. Am sure there are all kinds of little places along Bourbon or in the French Quarter that have great food; I usually just grab something and head to either Preservation Jazz Hall to see a show or any of the smallish clubs along Frenchman Street.
Q: Hey Doug! 'Twas not so much the tryptophan as the not-being-a-fan of the resulting clean up and restocking of the larder after a few days of The Gathering of The Turkey Lovers. Anyway, that's done. 'Til Christmas anyway. So a stunning finish before a stunned crowd last night in Washington DC. In your opinion, what if any should be the repercussions of the Nationals' decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg. Who made the call? And should the responsible heads roll because of it? It sure isn't the only reason for the Nationals' loss to the Cardinals, but it's the popular one that's being discussed today. What's your take on it? I know hindsight's 20-20 and all that, but was Strasburg's absence a series-changer? Or just one of several contributing factors? (And don't you just love playoff baseball? Especially this year!) Cheers.
Lorie P, London
A: As it turns out, getting to a six-run lead late in Game 5 and blowing it had little to do with Strasburg but you know there are all kind of “what-ifs” being bandied about.
I wouldn’t have shut him down when they did, that’s for sure; I think a more effective tact may have been – once they saw how good the season to unfolding – to limit minutes per start so he could get more starts but that’s just me.
Q: In a couple of your columns last week assessing the team, you kept minimizing the foreseen role of Amir Johnson. You kept referring to Gray and JV and Ed Davis, and that they would have to find minutes for Amir. How did he become so devalued in your eyes after being arguably one the best and most energetic guys last year, runs the floor, plays D, improved his free throws and 15-20 ft shooting, etc. and plays hurt. Aaron Gray can only IMAGINE finishing around the rim like AJ does, and Davis has limited offence and JV is a work in progress. To me Amir is starting centre until JV is ready.
Also nicknames: Jim 'Mudcat' Grant.
Michael R, Markham
A: I haven’t said he’s been devalued, I said he’s been in the mix and battling Davis for minutes. They like Gray’s toughness – he’s the strongest big they have – and the way he sets screens. He’s stronger in parts of the game Dwane Casey values.
And, frankly, for most of camp, Ed Davis has out-played Amir, according to everyone I’ve talked to.
It may end up that the four bigs in the regular rotation at Valanciunas, Bargnani, Davis and Johnson, it’s still awfully early. But there will not be five in the regular group, Dwane has said repeatedly.